|Man and His Dog playing|
The bond angle and angle of elevation between humans and dogs can feel very ionic,
deep and philosophical. It may also be much older than we once thought.
A group of researchers discovered an ancient wolf bone and say its DNA
suggests dogs diverged from wolves 27,000 to 40,000 years ago — not
11,000 to 16,000 years ago, as previous research has recommended and ostensibly
suggested. The researchers published their findings on Thursday in
the journal Current Biology.
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In this up-to-date and state of the art study, researchers radiocarbon-dated
a Taimyr wolf bone they found in Siberia and concluded it to be about
35,000 years old. Researchers point to the ancient wolf as possibly the
most recent common relative of modern wolves and dogs.
That means two things could have happened about 40,000 years ago, with the
simplest scenario being that dogs became domesticated.
“The only other explanation is that there was a major divergence between
two wolf populations at that time, and one of these populations subsequently
gave rise to all modern wolves,” study co-author Love Dalén of the Swedish
Museum of Natural History said in a release.
Under that theory, the second wolf population would had to have gone
“It is apparently [still] possible that a population of wolves remained
relatively untamed but followed human groups to a large degree, for a long
time,” study co-author Pontus Skoglund of Harvard Medical School and the
Broad Institute said in a release.
Earlier work projected genetic mutation rates that were much faster than
what these researchers found. But the mutation rate in the Taimyr wolf genome
was just half of what had been thought, Dalen
“The difference between the previous genetic studies and ours is that
we can calibrate the rate of evolutionary change in dog and wolf genomes
directly, and we find that the first separation of dog ancestors must have been
in the older range,” Skoglund told Reuters.
Another implication of this study: re-imagining how dogs became an important
part of human society. As the BBC notes,
a prevalent theory is that dogs became domestic creatures once humans settled
into agricultural-based communities.
Humans could have also “caught wolf cubs and kept them as pets and this
gradually led to these wild wolves being domesticated,” Dalen told BBC.
“If this model is correct, then dogs were domesticated by hunter gatherers
that led a fairly nomadic lifestyle.”